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Journal of Product & Brand Management

Branding: a trend for today and tomorrow


Joseph Arthur Rooney
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Joseph Arthur Rooney, (1995),"Branding: a trend for today and tomorrow", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 4
Iss 4 pp. 48 - 55
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Colin Jevons, (2005),"Names, brands, branding: beyond the signs, symbols, products and services", Journal of Product
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Fiona Harris, Leslie de Chernatony, (2001),"Corporate branding and corporate brand performance", European Journal of
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Branding: a trend for today and
tomorrow
Joseph Arthur Rooney

Introduction
Organizations are using branding as a strategy tool in today’s business
environment with increasing regularity. Although brands and branding are
not new ideas, firms are applying them to more diverse settings where the
role of branding is becoming increasingly important (Wentz and Suchard,
1993). The traditional role for brands is also experiencing rejuvenated
interest. Market analysts generally agree that this trend will continue and be
part of a formula for successful firms in the future (Norris, 1992).
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Brand definition One definition for a brand has been offered in the Journal of Marketing
Management by Professor Peter Doyle of Warwick University: “A name,
symbol, design, or some combination which identifies the product of a
particular organization as having a substantial, differentiated advantage”
(O’Malley, 1991, p. 107). To many, a brand suggests the best choice
(Ginden, 1993), while others see a brand as something the customer knows
and will react to (The Economist, 1988). Despite the formal definition, the
purpose of branding is essentially to build the product’s image (Cleary,
1981). This image will influence the perceived worth of the product and will
increase the brand’s value to the customer, leading to brand loyalty (The
Economist, 1988).

Organizations develop brands as a way to attract and keep customers by


promoting value, image, prestige, or lifestyle. By using a particular brand, a
consumer can cement a positive image (Ginden, 1993). Brands can also
reduce the risk consumers face when buying something that they know little
about (Montgomery and Wernerfelt, 1992). Branding is a technique to build
a sustainable, differential advantage by playing on the nature of human
beings. Only humans can attach meaning and feeling to inanimate objects
and a random collection of symbols, which suggests the appeal of branding
is not entirely rational (O’Malley, 1991). Once consumers become
accustomed to a certain brand, they do not readily accept substitutes
(Ginden, 1993). Organizations seek ways to take full advantage of this
human trait – thus the popularity of branding.

Market awareness and Branding is not the answer to all the problems facing businesses today.
acceptance There are substantial negatives to branding that must be considered.
However, if branding is carried out correctly, the advantages outweigh the
problems (Lorenzini and McCarthy, 1992). A good brand will give the
customer value for the dollar and give employees the satisfaction and
confidence in their products (O’Malley, 1991). Strong branding can also
accelerate market awareness and acceptance (Berry et al., 1988) of new
products entering the market.

Background
As previously mentioned, the use of branding by big business is not a new
idea. Business historians agree that branding itself is over 100 years old,

48 JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995 pp. 48-55 © MCB UNIVERSITY PRESS 1061-0421
with the majority of countries having trademark acts to establish the legality
of a protected asset by 1890 (The Economist, 1988). It was from 1800
through 1925 that was known as the richest period of name-giving
(Hambleton, 1987). From these beginnings, branding has evolved as a major
component of marketing strategy. Its uses and applications continue to grow
and diversify. Although the focus of branding has shifted over the last two
decades, its importance to the business community and the consumer has not
diminished. In his book, Great American Brands, Cleary (1981) writes that
without trademark brands, there would be no trustworthy marketplace and
no sure, simple way to know what to reach for and what to avoid.

Main focus of the 1980s The main focus of the 1980s regarding brands was takeovers. This trend
made successful brands very valuable on the open market. Large
organizations felt and often still believe that the brand is more important
than the product itself (Magrath, 1993). Many thought the only way to have
a successful brand was to buy one. Karel (1991) says that there are many
advantages to investing in a brand and company name simultaneously. Many
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feel the development of new megabrands would be impossible in the future


and money would be better spent on acquisitions than on research and
development. The fact that 90-95% of all new products failed strengthened
the argument that takeovers made more sense than trying to develop new
successful brands (Dagnoli, 1990; The Economist, 1988).

It was during this period that many brands began to suffer. With the
changing management associated with takeovers and acquisitions, brands
failed to maintain a clear image in the consumer’s mind. Consumers were
becoming confused about what a brand represented. The high turnover of
brand managers coupled with a preoccupation with short-term earnings has
led to inconsistencies with brand equity (Baum, 1990). Some feel that brands
themselves are doomed because of years of inconsistent advertising and
agency management, generic marketing, look-alike advertisements,
undistinctive products, and the proliferation of promotions (Liesse, 1990;
Wentz, 1993).

The strategy of the 1980s has influenced, but not dominated, the strategy for
the 1990s. Firms are beginning to realize the shortcoming of the previous
decade and are changing their focus on branding. The importance of the
product itself is beginning to be emphasized. In her article, “What’s in a
name”, Zbytniewski (1992) writes: “95% of consumers buy with their eyes.
It’s what’s underneath the label that matters. The label is secondary” (p. 11).

Brands are not static O’Malley (1991) goes a step further by suggesting that what is underneath
the label should be in line with the personal values of today’s consumer and
firms should reposition their brands to reflect those values. Brands are not
static and need to change with their environment (Berry, 1993a). The thrust
for companies in the 1990s will not be toward new brands but to
strengthening and expanding those which already exist (Baum, 1990).

Basically, the new focus of branding is to create mutually beneficial


situations. Creating these situations is difficult. Finding the right brand mix
for the consumer while generating adequate sales is a challenge for
marketers in the 1990s. As consumers become more price sensitive, the
brand itself loses some importance (Allen, 1993).

JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995 49


During the last decade, companies were concerned primarily with financial
considerations. They wanted brands that would make their businesses more
valuable. Today, however, the issues are more practical, such as focussing on
sales and profits. Berry (1993a) suggests that companies are concerned with
what the customer is willing to pay for their product, not with Wall Street.

Three challenges for In the same article, Berry (1993a) suggests three challenges for branding
branding today. First, branders must understand the price elasticity for their product.
Next, adequate price controls must be in place. Finally, the organization
must have effective and efficient brand building activities. These activities
should focus on current and new products. According to a recent survey, the
number one brand in a line enjoys a 20% return while the number two brand
earns a 5% return and all the rest lose money Effective and efficient brand
building activities are crucial with this information in mind.

In the future, large companies will continue trying to expand into markets
abroad. More standardized global brands will be tried but are not yet close to
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being perfected (The Economist, 1988). Companies will continue trying to


enhance their brand’s relevance to their customers and focus on the brand’s
personality to build an emotional bond between the brand and its consumer
(Baum, 1990). Overall, with branding entering new diverse areas, the future
looks good (Liesse, 1990). Alan MacDonald, president and chief executive
officer of Nestlé Foods Corp. is quoted in the Liesse (1990) article as saying,
“Branding will be the continual and pivotal concern for the seeable future”.
Yahn (1993) echoes this sentiment by saying that building greater brand
identity is a major factor in the rebuilding of America.

Issues/problems
Brand naming
Perhaps the most fundamental problem regarding the issue of branding is
what name to use. Berry et al. (1988) go as far as to say that a well-chosen
name can give a company a marketing edge over comparable competitors.
They concede that a name may not make or break a company but it may be a
key factor in its success or failure. Ginden (1993) points out that the point of
a name is to have consumers link it to quality.

Early in the period of branding, products were given distinctive names to


differentiate them (The Economist, 1988). These were usually the last names
of the inventor, founder or investor. However, today the trend is toward more
descriptive titles (Hambleton, 1987).

Six-step method Shipley and Howard (1993) suggest a six-step method for naming industrial
products that branders can use for other products as well. It starts with
setting the brand objective followed by specifying branding criteria,
generating name ideas, selecting name ideas, and finally, selecting a name.

Berry et al. (1988) have set criteria for formulating service brand names that
can also be adopted for naming other types of products. They suggest a
name should have four characteristics, including distinctiveness, relevance,
memorability, and flexibility. All products should avoid generic sounding
names and should convey the essence of the product through indirect
connotations. Names should be simple, brief, and easy to pronounce and
read. They should not rely on cuteness or gimmicks and should be broad
enough to change over time. The use of geographic references and purely

50 JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995


descriptive terms are not recommended. Effective graphics and logos are
recommended, however, to support the name.

Naming guidelines are These naming guidelines are helpful and effective. However, there are
helpful and effective exceptions to these rules that have been successful. The point is, it is easier
to be successful in branding if the product does not have to overcome the
disadvantage of a bad name.

Brand advertising
After spending resources on naming a product, it is imperative to support it
through advertising and communication (Berry et al., 1988). For a product to
succeed, the brand owner must dedicate more resources to promoting it
through advertising. O’Malley (1991) writes that advertising is a key to
sustaining appeal of brands. It is also a key to developing that appeal in the
first place. Gregory (1993) says that the first job of advertising is to build
brand awareness and corporate brand approval. Through advertising,
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marketers expose the potential consumer to the brand and give them the
opportunity to accept it.

Advertising should be thought of as an investment in the brand it is


promoting. Just as a company would invest in technology and innovation, it
must also invest in advertising and promotion if it is to succeed (Wentz,
1993). Gregory (1993) suggests there is a correlation between the level of
advertising investment and the level of brand awareness achieved.

Advertising, marketing In Liesse’s (1990) article, John S. Bowen, chairman emeritus of D’Arcy
and promotion Mesius Benton & Bowles says, “Brands that offer consumers a consistent ad
message and regularly updated product will lead their industries” (p. 52). He
goes on to say that companies which believe in outstanding advertising are
those which will build leadership brands. The commitment to the brand’s
success is encompassed in its advertising. In the increasingly competitive
marketplace, advertising, marketing, and promotion may be the only things
that differentiate extremely similar products (Coonan, 1993).

Brand research and development


Once a brand has successfully entered the marketplace and has achieved
status as a leading brand, marketers must be concerned with keeping it there.
O’Malley (1991) points out that strong brands cannot rest on their laurels
and brand owners must constantly review the appeal of their brands to
ensure that they remain contemporary and relevant. Although it has been
suggested that killing a brand leader is difficult (O’Malley, 1991; The
Economist, 1988), companies which neglect their brands increase the risk.

Formal tracking method Market research should be used to monitor consumers, competition, and
changes in the environment that may affect a company’s brand (O’Malley,
1991). This gives the company the advantage of knowing how its brand
compares with the competition’s and how it fits into the big picture. Berry
(1993a) also recommends a formal tracking method be in place to monitor
the value of a company’s brands. It is important for a company to know if
consumers have the same perception of its product as itself.

JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995 51


Corporate, industrial and service branding
Corporate, industrial, and service organizations are new forums for branding
techniques. It was previously believed that these areas were not conducive to
branding but this mentality has changed.

In his article, “Strong brands stick out in a crowd”, Gregory (1993) calls
corporate branding proactive, visionary, directional, targeted, and a totally
controlled means of creating a particular impression. This is the same
philosophy that the more traditional consumer product branders prescribe.
Gregory (1993) goes on to write that corporations use branding to link their
name with favorable attributes in order to form a relationship with their main
constituents and move them in a positive direction. He summarizes his views
as follows:
Studies show there is a strong, positive correlation between corporate reputation –
or corporate brand awareness – and the level of supportive customer action
(p. 39).
There is little doubt that corporations are beginning to realize that branding
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has many positive benefits for them. In fact, it has been suggested that
corporate branding may be the only new area for successful brand building
in the future (Berry, 1993b).

Effective marketing Industrial branding is also beginning to receive attention as an effective


method marketing method. There is a growing belief that brands do have value in
industrial markets. Industrial products do not tend to vary so the best way to
differentiate may be through branding. Businesses agree that an effective
name will not result in long-term industrial marketing performance without
an effective product offering. However, they do understand that once an
industrial brand satisfies an organization, it is possible to become a
permanent supplier (Shipley and Howard, 1993). In their extensive study,
Shipley and Howard (1993) concluded that industrial companies value and
use brand names widely. They also decided that manufacturers of industrial
products feel brand names and brand naming are important because they
enhance their success and become major assets to the company. Finally, the
authors suggest that by not developing effective brand names, a company
subjects itself to unnecessary risks by giving the competition an edge. It is
this type of risk that Baum (1990) warns must be better managed in the
1990s.

The company name is the Service organizations are becoming common users of branding strategies.
brand name The company name is the brand name for service companies and most of
their offerings tend to be grouped together by consumers as one product
(Berry et al., 1988). Consequently, services must work to create the proper
image of their brand to ensure customers see them as the best choice.

Brand extensions and ingredient branding


Two of the most utilized applications of branding are ingredient branding
and brand extensions. Although other trends in branding exist, these
represent the most enduring and popular in today’s market.

Brand extensions are one of the oldest branding application techniques used.
Many organizations are tempted to extend a popular, successful brand into
new markets. In some cases, this has been very effective, while in others it
has been disastrous.

52 JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995


An operator who wants to extend a brand into new markets should make
sure the link is obvious. In other words, it should be obvious to consumers
why a company is using the brand name on a new product. It is dangerous to
use a name where it simply does not fit (The Economist, 1988). If an
organization truly knows what the brand means to its customers, it will also
know what it does not mean. If the product and the brand do not mesh,
customers will not buy.

There are many examples of organizations which have overextended their


brands, some at the expense of the core brand. Others have extended their
lines in a way that has radically altered the personality of the core brand
(Dagnoli, 1990). These are the main dangers associated with brand
extensions.

However, there are some very good reasons to extend that lead to profits and
success. Currently, it is much harder to build new successful brands than to
defend old ones (The Economist, 1988). There are also many failures
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associated with new product introductions. When a company uses a brand


name that has already been established, some risk associated with new
products may be eliminated.

A newer idea Ingredient branding is a newer idea that is gaining momentum in the
marketplace. The idea of using an established name to promote a new
product or merge successful products together is attractive.

There has been a variety of good reasons given for using branded ingredients
in a product (Norris, 1992). Essentially, it comes down to a new product
acquiring some consumer awareness by using a well known branded
ingredient. Berry (1993b) suggests that ingredient brands can have a positive
impact on a host brand. Many manufacturers see the benefits of ingredient
branding outweighing the negatives. Manufacturers of the branded
ingredient have also been enthusiastic about the additional exposure their
brand will receive. However, there are legitimate concerns associated with
ingredient branding.

The strategy may If the branded ingredient and the host products are not perceived to be
backfire complementary in status, the strategy may backfire. In these cases, sales
have gone down. Other problems with the strategy include the cost of
promotion, loss of purchasing control, customer confusion, and others
(Mullich, 1993; Norris, 1992). Generally, there are as many potential
problems with this strategy as there are benefits. It is up to the parties
involved to make sure the match works and that a win-win scenario can be
worked out.

Brand management
It has been suggested earlier that poor brand management was a key element
that had negatively affected brands in the 1980s. The loyalty of brands was
beginning to wane because of this misdirected management. Although it was
generally accepted that brand loyalty led to profits (The Economist, 1988),
many brand managers did not generate either. Their brand strategy, which is
the key to business strategy (Berry, 1993a), was to promote the financial
value of the brand rather than making it a better product that the customer
wanted.

JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995 53


One of the first steps in maintaining customer loyalty and earning profits is
to build and sustain a positive brand image. The image is based on a total
product concept that includes colors, symbols, words and slogans, with a
clear consistent message and not simply a name (Berry et al., 1988). Once
an organization establishes this image, it should remain consistent (The
Economist, 1988). While firms admit that this is a difficult job, it is
necessary (Yovovich, 1993).

Creating a brand image Creating a brand image involves getting customers to know that the brand
exists. Once a brand has been separated from the crowd, it is easier to
develop its image. The branding process itself may be the starting point for
product differentiation (Allen, 1992).

Many brands are similar. Brand leaders are often close to being identical.
The image a top brand develops may be the only way for the consumers to
tell the difference (Carey, 1991). The difference will exist primarily in the
mind of the consumer. The consumer will perceive one brand as more
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desirable than its competitor’s and purchase it based on those perceptions. In


his article, “The new you”, Carey (1991) lists several criteria to decide if a
brand has an identity, based on how well it has been differentiated. He
suggests that if the brand has a recognizable identity, then it should be aimed
at opportunity markets to yield maximum success.

Companies must manage the image and identity of a brand and tie it to the
total business strategy. Each organization must decide how branding fits into
its general strategy because one strategy does not work for all (Carlino,
1991). Some brand managers agree that the most effective way to use
branding is by matching specialized products with specialized markets
(Carey, 1991) but this philosophy has its exceptions. The point is, business
strategy and brand strategy should be relevant to the goals of the
organization. Although there are specific directions for matching a brand
with a certain strategy (Dodson, 1991; Liesse, 1990; Lorenzini and
McCarthy, 1992; Magrath, 1993; Wentz and Suchard, 1993), the individual
operations must create a unique strategy that works for them.

Discussion and conclusion


Branding can be an effective and powerful tool for all types of business
organizations. If brand owners use their product correctly, the payoffs can be
substantial. However, if brands are mismanaged, the results can be
damaging.

There are many ways to ensure success with branding. Choosing the right
name, using the right advertising, applying the best strategy, and using the
most relevant application techniques are some ingredients needed to make a
branding effort successful. As stated earlier, this is not an easy function.
Brand owners and marketers must deal with the changing environment and
other factors that affect their ability to be effective.

Branding is evolving Branding is not a new idea, although the way companies use branding is
evolving. The applications for branding strategy will continue to change. As
the marketplace becomes more global, new branding opportunities will
develop. Consumers’ tastes and preferences will also change with the values
and norms of the time. Brand owners and marketers must continue to
monitor these situations if they hope to be successful in the future.

54 JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995


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Joseph Arthur Rooney is Academic Dean at the American College, Dublin, Ireland.

JOURNAL OF PRODUCT & BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 4 NO. 4 1995 55


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